According to an draft executive order from the White House titled “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again,” newly built or upgraded federal structures must now adhere to “the classical architectural style.” While not entirely specific, the directive that the style should reflect the infrastructure of “republican Rome.” But according to the American Institute of Architects, draft’s “uniform style mandate” is antithetical to democratic ideals. Washington DC’s urban planning director went so far as to call it “authoritarian.”
Writing for Slate, Morgan Baskin agrees.
“For centuries, autocrats, authoritarians, and dictators have held a fascination with using architecture as a political tool to glorify their regimes, often while also dismissing modern architectural styles as lowbrow, cold, or weak,” Baskin writes. “The current crop of far-right world leaders with authoritarian impulses is no different—and that now appears to include President Donald Trump.”
While many admire classical and neoclassical designs, the admirers have overwhelmingly included authoritarians.
“Adolf Hitler notoriously held a fascination with classical architecture, as did other fascist leaders of his time,” she continues. “When totalitarianism flourished across Europe, so did “fascist architecture,” or the construction of new federal monuments and buildings in the same architectural style.”
According to Baskin, Trump’s presidency has sparked a resurgence of the far-right nationalism and “echoes of fascist architecture have found their way back again.”
“But it’s not a shared insistence of classicism’s superiority that links the contemporary examples: Not every would-be authoritarian is obsessed with Grecian columns. What links them is how they want to use architecture to inspire a kind of superiority—of the leader over his predecessors, and of the state over others.”
Read Baskin’s full piece over at Slate.com.